Saturday, August 1

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 346)

For now, I really have to say that I am finding my life running far ahead of me and out of control right now.  I cannot pace myself at the moment and that is essential in managing my illness.  I am finding demands on my time that I didn't expect and I'm having to practice saying no - even to the people and the events where I really want to say yes.  I was invited to so many cool things today and I know that I need to catch up writing, write a reflections piece and put together the new platform.  That's way more than a day's work and on top of that, I'm already in energy deficit from Upfest.

I am finding it hard to pace because things that are enjoyable and energising are also taxing.  Being with people and talking takes energy (not because I'm an introvert, but because of my illness) and I have not been choosing wisely where I spend that.  I want to talk to street artists and spend time with my flatmate but I have so much work to do before the 16th launch that I have to say no sometimes to all that fun.

Drat.

But I had a great time last night even though I really feel like I am running to catch up with every bit of my life and I am late for everything and am not able to rest.  I went out last night and spent the day running between the doctor's office, the café to write and the Battersea Arts Centre where I was lining up interviews for my new website.  It was a busy day.  Oh, and I had to buy shoes.  I didn't want to look like an American anymore - one who thinks trainers go with anything.

So...exhausted today....but we go on....I would like to be out and about at events but work is taking precedence for the next 16 days.

1. I am grateful to Savant for inviting me to the opening of the show by Skeleton Cardboard last night.  He invited me to meet some of his friends and when we missed each other in different locations, he was sweet enough to tell me to go talk to so and so and this fella or that bloke and to say he sent me.  Such a sweet person, he is. 

One of the first photos I took for instagram was a piece of his art that was 'evolved' (ie had been hit by a graff).  The interaction between his intended image and the graff was very intriguing and it got me very interested in looking at street art.

It was lovely to meet his partner and to have her reassure me that contrary to my impression, not very many of the folks in the street art world are super young.  They are so warm and welcoming.  It is lovely to feel so embraced into the urban art community and I owe that feeling to the kindness of Savant. 

2. I am grateful for something a bit odd today.  I was walking along the road in West London after I left the hospital and an older gentleman said something as he was passing me.  I wasn't aware of what he had said until he passed.  Then it clicked.  He had said "Obesity! Blech!" loud enough for me to know he wanted to be heard.

Now don't get me wrong - I am not grateful for his bullying behaviour.  For whatever reason...perhaps it is the combination of being a woman and being a plus sized woman - and add over 30 to that - I have been the subject of verbal attack many times in London for my appearance.  It surprises people when they hear what I've had to endure on trains, in train stations, crossing the street and being shouted at from the car and called names.  They are surprised that this still happens in this day and age.  I'm not sure what it is about me, but I seem to have attracted it in a way that others who are plus sized have not experienced.  It has always upset me, made me feel low and damaged my self esteem.

I am grateful for yesterday's experience because my first thought was that those words used to hurt me.  The implication was that they did not, anymore.  But I wondered.  I was going out in the evening to an event where I would be meeting people I'd never met.  Would this do what it had always done and cause me to spiral downward at the hands of a bully?

I made a decision to just observe my thoughts and feelings for the rest of the day. 

I did not spiral downward.  In fact, I felt compassion for the man.  I thought - he doesn't know me.  He doesn't know that I was assaulted and gained about 15 Kg as a psychological protection against another attack.  He doesn't know that I have an illness that has caused me to gain another 10 Kg.  He doesn't know that I am a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul who attracts men all the time.  He doesn't see what is right before him because he sees only through his damaged world view. 

It is NOT okay to bully or to speak hatefully towards someone.  Whether it is my weight, my gender identification, my sexuality, my race, my religion, my nationality, my ethnicity...it is all prejudice and a hate crime.  It is not to be tolerated. 

And, had I understood what he'd said before I was down the block, I would have said something to him.  What?  I don't know.  In the past I would have been defensive and turned out some insult in return.  But I'm not feeling that way.  I am beautiful.  I am overweight.  I don't like being overweight because it represents both being unwell and the baggage of a crime that was not my fault.  I don't need this weight, I don't want this weight and I want to be healthy....but to lose it is very difficult given my condition. 

And still, I know I am beautiful.  My heart is beautiful and it attracts those who can see it.

I felt compassion for the man.  I felt he must be either senile or very damaged as a person to be a bully. 

And, in case you're wondering - I checked in with myself a couple of times over the course of the evening.  I made an effort and put on a little mascara and concealer mostly because I didn't want to scare anyone with my dark circles....but I felt - if not pretty - I felt beautiful and confident.  My confidence only grew at the gentle introduction of me to the others by Savant. 

And so, I am so very grateful that my attitude towards myself and others has so radically transformed in this past year.  I'd like to be thin again, but just as I see the beauty of others in all their imperfections, I have managed to turn that same gaze towards myself a little more (not always - we all have bad days).

I am so grateful for this man's bullying because he helped me see what a change there has been in me. 

3. I am grateful for the gifts I received last night.  Savant gave me a couple of his pieces (yay!!) which is so generous and Lisa gave me the gift of sharing the story of Ben the Naz with me.  She walked me down to see the piece Ben Naz created when his cancer was diagnosed as terminal.  I have seen his work around Shoreditch and it is striking and all around town there are many tributes to him.  I knew, when d7606 told me that he had passed away that there was a terrible loss in the community over it.  I felt it, without knowing the street artists, without really knowing his work, and without ever having met him.  I know how much he was loved, admired and how sorely he is missed.  There are others who have recently died and it always wrenches my heart out when I see the tributes.  Even though I don't know them, I feel the loss.  In Bristol, I had the saddest moment when I photographed a small stencilled tribute to an unknown person.  I felt that there were just too many RIP tributes on the streets.  Far too many lost artists.

Joy - It was a joy to be invited in so graciously to a group of artists who drink at a certain bar in Brick Lane.  I didn't have much to say really, but they spoke to me and in certain cases, they shared very deep parts of themselves.  I feel privileged.

Oneness - Last night, Lisa and I went to visit her friend Ben through sitting in the presence of his work.  I know she is probably thinking of someone else as well, and sometimes we have to approach these things asymptotically because they are too painful for direct approach.  I get that.  He was her friend and she loved him and sitting on the curb, looking at his art in the moonlight, I felt he was there.  And I really wished I had known him.

Service -  I feel what happened was a privilege so I feel a bit odd in calling it service, but I offered a compassionate and impartial ear to someone that needed to unburden their troubles.  As it was the full moon, and a blue moon - I am told that it is a good time for prayers for the dead - I prayed for and remembered my mother, Steve who died in May, and the street artists Ben the Naz and TSP.

I don't post photos of myself, I prefer to be an introverted, reclusive, unidentifiable writer but I think that in keeping with my post today, letting myself be seen would be a positive gesture.

So...photos today (and there are a few!):

A piece from Skeleton Cardboard's show in Shoreditch:




Ben the Naz - 'The Edge' under a blue moon:




Savant - one of the first piece of street art I photographed on Instagram:



And a selfie.  When I saw this photo, I felt I looked unattractive.  My friend, Steve, who died at the end of May, helped me to see how beautiful the photo is.  And so, still uncomfortable with 'being seen', I posted it again and sat with that discomfort.  I am grateful to Steve for giving me the support to be vulnerable.


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